Grayscale Portrait in Illustrator

    ●   Open a picture in Photoshop and crop it.

    ●   Then import that file into Illustrator and create a grayscale gradient portrait using only Black and White.

Learn About:

Direct Selection Tool Feathering Pencil ToolGrayscale

  •   This tutorial is part of the Picture Perfect Project.

Other People's Work:

Here are examples of work inspired by this tutorial.


Step #1: Open your Image in PhotoShop ~

Open your image in PhotoShop (you'll be moving to Illustrator later).

martin luther king

Step #2: Crop Tool ~

Get the Crop Tool or hit the keyboard shortcut letter (c) …

crop tool

… and crop the photo as small as possible - keep only as much image as you need.

Then go to: Image > Image Size and set the resolution to 72 pixels per inch.


Step #3: Grayscale ~

Go to: Image > Mode > Grayscale.


Step #4: Save the file as a .psd (PhotoShop Document) ~

Save your file somewhere you can find it.

save as

Step #5: Open the Image in Illustrator ~

Find your .psd, Right-Click it and open with Illustrator.

SteStep #6: Template Layer ~

Now, click the drop down menu in the upper corner of the Layers Palette and select Template …






Changing a layer to a "Template" layer reduces the Transparency to 50% so you can see what you're doing, turns the eye  in to the template icon  and locks the layer lock.


Step #7: New Layer ~

Create a New Layer above your template layer.

new layer

Step #8: Gradient Squares ~

Get the Rectangle Tool or hit the keyboard shortcut letter (m) …

… set your Fill to Black, Stroke to none none


… and on the New Layer, make a perfectly shaped small black square by holding shift key.

Step #9: Squares ~

Switch to the Selection Tool by hitting the keyboard shortcut (v), and copy the square 7 times by holding alt option key and dragging across the top.

Step #10: Grayscale ~

Now, fill the 2nd square with a slightly lighter shade of gray …

… continue until the last square is almost white.

grayscale colors

Step #11: Trace the Darkness ~

Get the Pencil Tool, or hit the keyboard shortcut letter (n) …

… Zoom In on an area with high contrast by hitting the keyboard shortcut: Cmd(⌘)+Plus cmd plus

… and draw a closed shape where you see the darkest area.

Step #12: Eye Dropper ~

Get the Eyedropper Tool or hit the keyboard shortctut (i) …

eyedropper tool

… and choose the black square.

Step #13: Direct Selection Tool ~

Get the Direct Selection Tool or hit the keyboard shortcut letter (a) …

direct selection tool

… and use the anchors to stretch the shapes to fit your needs.

Step #14: Send to Back ~

You can overlap shapes by Right-Clicking with the Selection Tool selection tool small and going to: Arrange > Send to Back or hit the keyboard shortcut: Shift+Cmd(⌘)+[

Step #15: Continue ~

Continue with the Pencil Tool to create shapes and match them with your 7 colors.

Be detailed with your shapes if you want this technique to work.

Last Step: Save and Attach ~

Save your work as -]

save as

Attach it even if you're not done yet!

  •   ALWAYS save your projects using the following naming convention:

  •   DO NOT name your project any other way - Improperly named projects will not receive credit and you will be sad.

  •   NEVER leave your work on the desktop or depend on a flash drive - instead, save your work in a folder you can find later - preferably on a virtual drive where it can be backed up.

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